Manitoba is falling behind other provinces in terms of data collection for opioid overdose deaths, according to the province's Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen.
On Wednesday, Goertzen called the increasing use of opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil a "crisis," and said the province needs to improve the way it tracks deaths from the deadly drugs.
"I'll tell you frankly that, as the Minister of Health, I've been frustrated in terms of trying to get data and real-time data in terms of individuals who have died as a result of an overdose," he said.
"I'm not suggesting that it's always easy to do that analysis, but I do believe that other provinces are doing it better than we are and they're getting data more quickly."
Goertzen said without accurate information, the government can't accurately understand the scope of the problem or track improvement over time.
"We need to get information on overdoses, and overdoses for opioids in particular," he said. "We need to get that information quicker and we need to have a standard in place so that we can measure it over time."
According to the City of Winnipeg, the overdose-reversing drug naloxone has already been used on 651 patients since the beginning of 2016
That's up from the 418 patients who were administered naloxone in 2015.
According to city information, the number has steadily increased since 2011, when it was used on 171 patients in the entire year.
National summit on Saturday
On Saturday, Goertzen will meet in Ottawa with provincial health ministers and medical examiners from across the country, along with federal Health Minister Jane Philpott for a national summit on the rise of opioids in Canada.
The goal is to create a joint statement of action including a commitment to public reporting.
"This is something that I don't think can be addressed just at a provincial level," Goertzen said.
"I hope to take away from [the conference] both what we can do in Manitoba better and what is working well in Manitoba that we can share with other provinces, and then also look at what we can do to coordinate on a national level."
Goertzen also highlighted the importance of raising awareness on the deadly effects of fentanyl and carfentanil and non-healthcare related approaches through law enforcement and social programming.
"Government can't legislate away this problem," he said.
"This is still very much a human problem and we need all hands on deck with people being involved with each other to spread not only the knowledge of how deadly these drugs can be, but also people who've been successful."